News broke in 2013 that a Spirou theme park was coming to Provence, France, with plans to open in 2015.
This video appeared on March 3, 2015:
Construction didn’t start until June 2017. Now, the newest theme park in the South of France opens to the general public this weekend in 2018.
Better later-than-originally-planned than never!
It’s Parc Spirou, with all the theming after, of course, Spirou and his friends. Yes, that includes Marsupilami and Lucky Luke and many more.
It’s nearly 10 acres in size, but the plans are to double that size in the coming years with at least one new ride every year.
If you’re looking for it, it’s over here:
My favorite part of the map, no doubt, is that it calls out a French restaurant over to the left. Mais oui! C’est la France!
Buy Your Tickets Today!
The official Parc Spirou website is available in English!
The calendar shows it’ll be open through the summer all the way to September 9th, then weekends only until the week of Halloween, when it’ll be open from October 20th through November 4th. After that, you’ll have to wait for the 2019 season to visit.
Some lucky folks got to go to an early/preview opening, so there are YouTube videos showing the park and the rides already. A YouTube search for “Parc Spirou” will give you a good idea of what you might expect there.
The Gift Shop and the Book Store
Let’s start with the best part of the park:
I want to go to a theme park with a gift shop that has a wall looking like this:
And that’s barely a third of what’s on that wall, alone!
Pardon me while I drool.
The Park Skews Young
This is definitely a theme park that aims at younger families. From all the videos I’ve seen, it looks like the kind of place teenagers would be bored at after an hour, at the most. The rides are all very low on the “Thrill-o-meter” scale.
It’s not quite “Sesame Place,” but it’s not far from it. It’s definitely smaller than that, too.
The biggest ride is “Spirou Racing.” I’m a relatively new roller coaster convert. I’ve only just started to go on rides where I might ever be upside down or drop really far. But you know what? This is tame even by my standards:
My 9 year old would enjoy this ride once or twice, but this park would barely be a half-day stop for her.
Even worse, there’s a height limit on that Spirou ride. You can’t ride it if you’re taller than 6′ 4.7″
I am only an inch shorter than that. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with that little margin.
Parc Spirou provides three “Simulator” rides. I don’t know what that means exactly. Is it like “Star Tours” or the “Ratatouille” ride at DisneyWorld Paris? I do not know and the rides don’t appear in any of the YouTube video I’ve seen so far.
The first is “Gaffe à Gaston”, where Gomer the Goof takes you on a virtual tour of the Spirou magazine offices. Can you imagine an “attraction” in North America in which Superman takes you for a tour of DC’s offices? Or Spider-Man of Marvel’s? That might have worked in the 1980s, but I don’t think most of those same park goers today would know they still publish comics.
In France, they know.…
“Zombillennium Dark Ride” takes a break from the core Spirou cast to give you a simulation starring the characters from the book who starred in their own animated movie last year.
And, finally, “Mesozoik Island” is virtual Jurassic Park. VR and park ride folks love a good dinosaur attraction…
Parc Spirou is in the South of France. The good news is that there’s a water park right up the street. The bad news for comics fans is that if you wanted to hit both Parc Spirou and Parc Asterix, you have a bit of a drive:
That’s a seven to eight hour road trip right there.
There might be a train, but it’s still not a simple day trip from one park to the other.
What I Think Might Be Going On
The project started five years ago, almost. It’s been scheduled for an opening every year in that time. When it finally opens now, it’s only half the size it’s projected to be. Construction started very late in the game, so features likely got cut to make up the time. They abandoned the water ride portion early on to ensure the park could open in June. Part of the delay might have been a lack of funding.
My guess is that they’re opening the park now to bring the money in so that they can afford to build out the rest of the park. They need to prove to investors that this thing will make money. So they open it with less than a year’s construction to build out as much as they can, then plan to grow with revenues and crowds.
They’re expecting a half million people to come through the park in the first year. That’s quite a healthy number, if they can pull it off. Will the people who show up this summer want to come back next year? Is Spirou, alone, enough of a draw?
The gamble here is that they’ll attract crowds. It is a small park, so it wouldn’t take much to pack it full, but can they make enough money to justify its continued expansion?
In a perfect world, I’m sure they would have preferred to open a bigger park to start, but at some point, cash flow becomes an issue.
Also, is it because the park is so small that the rides are so small and, thus, the audience it’s aimed at it is much younger? They talk a good game about wanting a cozy or intimate experience, but that usually sounds like an excuse more than a strategy.
The project feels rushed. The website is a little sparse. They don’t even have a site map of the park on the website. A Google Image search brings up maps, but they look dated. I don’t think they represent the reality of what they finished for this opening.
For the Coaster Geeks
In perusing some of the roller coaster/theme park fan sites, there’s a lot of talk about the current roller coasters all being made by the same manufacturer, Zierer (Germany). They’re not the high end whizbang roller coasters, but they are reliable and service a lot of parks, including Asterix. (They reuse rides, and just re-skin them to fit the park’s themes.)
People in the know in the coaster community sound a little more optimistic than me about the park. They follow this stuff much closer than I do, so maybe I should just listen to them.
Coaster geeks will want to read this interview, with the site’s development manager. He’s very direct with his answers, which impressed me.
It would be wrong of me to pre-judge a theme park I’ve never been to and likely never will.
However, this is the internet, so here we go:
It’s too small. It skews towards too young a demographic to be of interest to me. Two of the roller coasters look like fun, but I think the thrill will wear off quickly.
That bookstore certainly is nice, but wouldn’t be worth paying 30 Euros to get into.
If it survives that long, it’ll be interesting to see what it looks like in 2022 or so once it’s grown out a bunch.
This weekend, if I could only attend one theme park in France, it’d be a toss-up between DisneyWorld and Parc Asterix. I hope this one gets a chance to grow up to challenge that, because I do like the characters. Marsupilami should be a great character to use for a theme park, too.
Bonus #1: A Very Special Issue of “Spirou”
Last week’s edition of “Spirou” is a special theme park edition, with many comics and articles devoted to the new park, or theme parks, in general.
It’s topped off by a new Jose Luis Munuera cover featuring Zorglub and his daughter. Inside, the first chapter of a new seven part series written and drawn by Munuera begins.
Things, of course, go wrong for Z almost immediately.
I’m still hoping we see Munuera’s first “Z” album translated into English, and now I can add a second album on that stack…
Bonus #2: Whatever Happened to Spirouland?
Around the same time Parc Spirou was announced, word got out about a possible “Spirouland” attraction from the same people who own and operate Parc Asterix.
SpirouReporter.net has a post on it from 2014. Spirouland was meant to be part of a larger mall/complex opening in Belgium in 2021. At least, there’s a pitch video for it. Spirouland appears about a minute in, and is a small part of the overall presentation. It will include the largest movie theater complex in Belgium at 4000 seats total, 230 stores, 30 restaurants, and more.
I can’t find any discussion of it or the larger mall site anywhere. One report says that a water park in the area would be kicked out to make room for the site. And guess what? This is that park’s final season. They’re closing down for good at the end of September.
The developer’s site lists it still as being a project for 2021. (Click on “Loisirs Indoor”, as this will be an indoor attraction at the mall.)
Let’s come back to this in a couple years and see if there’s any movement on the project…
Looking Ahead to the Weekend
In the meantime, I’ll be scouring YouTube in the days ahead for more videos from the opening weekend of Parc Spirou. I hope one of those Roller Coaster sites can get in there and do some POV videos so I can get a better idea of how serious those coasters are. I’d also like to see a walk through of the park to see how it all lays out and how interesting those smaller rides are.